Social ventures or businesses with a mission are all the rage in the business community.
You might have heard of companies, such as the apparel business Tentree Clothing, which plants 10 trees for every article purchased; or Toms Shoes, a footwear giant that donates a pair of sneakers to someone in need for every item consumers purchase.
When Sydney Deneka started her business Kozy Kritter’s by Sydney, she added a social impact twist. It was not to follow the trend, it was her love of animals that drove Sydney to donate a portion of the proceeds from her one-of-a-kind, customized blankets to a cause that supports animal welfare in Manitoba.
In the Beginning
Sydney was born with a rare genetic condition called Coffin Siris syndrome, which affects her hearing, vision, communication, social and cognitive functioning.
Her love of pets and babies was evident at an early age and was encouraged by her family and school team.
Sydney made her first Kozy Kritter’s, four double fleece pet blankets for a school fund- raiser when she was 15 years old. She packaged the blankets with a small toy and homemade pet treats, before donating them to the Winnipeg Humane Society.
Her resource teacher suggested Sydney personalize the blankets on the school’s embroidery machine and sell them. Within a couple of months and with the help of her family and educational assistant, she sold over 60 pet and newborn baby blankets. After one year, Sydney had sold enough Kozys to purchase her own embroidery machine and now makes all of her blankets at home.
Sydney donates $1 from the sale of each blanket to a variety of pet shelters and rescues. To date, she has donated over $1,000.
A Small Business Can Make a Big Difference
Due to the challenges associated with Coffin Siris syndrome, Sydney thrives outside the typical business environment.
Kozy Kritter’s by Sydney is a home-based business, so Sydney has the ability to take breaks when she needs them and customize her work space. Sydney excels at working with her custom embroidery machine, delivering products and attending craft shows and sales events.
The Just Watch ME! Video Contest
In 2015, Sydney entered the Just Watch ME! Video Contest, where entrepreneurs with disabilities submit a video about why entrepreneurship is a good fit for them.
Her inspirational movie explaining her experience with small business struck a chord with the public and Sydney’s story was picked up by media across Manitoba. Her video was a clear favourite in the contest and after judges narrowed the field to four finalists, the public got behind it and voted her in as the contest winner.
Watch Syndey's Entry Video:
When Sydney’s mom Heather was asked about the impact the contest had, she said, the Just Watch ME! Video Contest affected Sydney by giving her a lot of exposure.
"After the contest, she was invited to Stonewall and the United Church to speak. A school in Minnedosa has a social justice committee called Change, they invited her in to tell her story. As soon as someone learns about Sydney and her business, they want to support her,” she added.
During the Just Watch ME! Video Contest, Sydney was invited to the CBC Radio Morning Show to talk about who she was and her start-up business. Sydney’s mom recalls the hours after the show as, “ding, ding, ding” when Sydney racked up 120 online sales from listeners and had to work overtime to get them ready for a Christmas deadline.
It’s All About The Pets
A few years ago, Sydney’s business was part of the local Show N’ Shine in her hometown of Beausejour, MB. While she was showcasing her products, she noticed pets would wander by with their tongues hanging out and she instantly took on the responsibility of getting water to help keep the animals hydrated.
Next, she began baking dog cookies for her furry friends, which were a hit. Sydney’s compassion for pets sparked another product in her business, allowing her to grow her overall sales with dog biscuits. Other items Sydney has added include tug toys and cat nip chews for felines.
A Leader in Her Community
Since graduating from high school, Sydney has spent much of her free time at the Association for Community Living which helps support her business.
Sydney’s friends and peer group now have an opportunity to participate in the business. They work together to make the products and are proud of the number of animals they have been able to help through Kozy Kritter’s.
Key Takeaway: Stories Sell
Sydney’s unique story is what has propelled her business success. She regularly gets emails, where her customers comment on how proud they are of her and how happy they are to support her business.
At every interaction, she creates another fan, amplifies her personal brand and drives business growth.
What’s Your Story?
It is important to never forget that people do business with people they like and believe are doing good in the world. When you are telling your story online, do not forget your story is unique and worth talking about. Take people on the ride of the start up of your business and they are likely to support you, where they can, and help spread the word. Showcase the ups and downs, the glamourous and the mundane. Build a personal brand with staying power and watch your business grow!
To stay up to date with Sydney you can connect with her here:
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